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A popular retirement career – but can you make money from it?

Man with a book

Ever wanted to be a writer? Retired and thinking of new ways to earn money? Published author, Karen Turner, shares her experiences, navigating the unpredictable but satisfying world of professional writing.

They say everyone has a story to tell – but can you make a living from writing? Truth is, it’s very difficult to live solely on royalties from book sales. Some people do, but for mere mortals whose names are not J.K. Rowling, let’s start with some real figures:

My books, Torn and Inviolate, retail for $24.95. I receive roughly $8.00 per sale, after the publisher, retailer, distributer et-al take their respective shares.

From my $8.00, I pay income tax and superannuation.

There are online sales too. eBooks retail for less, meaning my royalty is lower.

Question: What’s the quickest way to upset a writer?

Answer: Tell her you loved her book so much you lent it to your friend. Arrrgh! If you love the book so much buy it for your friend!

As a fiction writer, I make a good living writing non-fiction. Here are a few ways to do this:

  • Become a technical writer: large organisations regularly pay good writers to draft technical or business documents.

  • Write a business book: perfect if you have an area of expertise.

  • Blogging: writers post articles about any topic you can shake a pencil at: travel, food, sport, etc. Some writers even blog about writing – ahem. Bloggers earn money by selling advertising space or reviewing products and services.

Retired people or those not reliant on regular income often write their memoirs or family chronicle. Others undertake to record their town or suburb’s local history. These can be rewarding, but generally not profitable.

Just remember: if you’re earning money the tax office needs to know. I run this as a business so I have to manage its affairs, e.g. invoicing clients, lodging tax returns, completing BAS, etc. Even authors need to seek good financial advice. A book can take years from the initial draft to publication so planning ahead is imperative.

I am often asked about how to get published.

Traditional – pitching to publishers/agents can be incredibly demoralising. Rejection will become your middle name – accept it! Even J.K. Rowling was regularly rejected; persistence is the key. If you are offered a contract, don’t rush into signing without fully understanding the implications. Bodies like the Australian Society of Authors provide contractual advice.

Independent – Self-publishing can be expensive – eBooks, less so – but Indie publishing allows you complete control. Do your readers a favour though: have your manuscript professionally edited. Even great writers make errors!

Ready to go? Even if you’re a good writer, you can’t go wrong by doing a course. Stick to better-known institutions like your local TAFE, or check out the Australian Writers’ Centre website,

The best advice I can offer is: start. Once you’re into it, stopping will be the hard part!

Writing may not the most lucrative career, but it’s one of the most satisfying – I love my job!

This article has been written by Australian author Karen Turner. Karen’s books, Torn and Inviolate are available from online bookshops and your favourite downloadable eBook site. She is currently writing the third (and final) book in the series.

See Karen’s website for further details of where to buy her books and receive a free chapter sample of Torn.


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